Felony disenfranchisement laws restrict those convicted of felonies from exercising their right to vote – some for the terms of their sentences and some forever. Commentators suggest that the outcomes of recent political elections would have been vastly different, and thus the focus of the United States would be vastly different, if felons were not restricted from the ability to vote. In fact, in the 2000 election of Bush vs. Gore, Bush won the electoral vote by a margin of 537 votes in the state of Florida, a state in which there were 750,000 inmates restricted from voting due to felony disenfranchisement laws. It was noted that 73% of those inmates would have voted for Gore – thus changing the results of the election (if they voted in the first place – which is not a given).
Lobbyists both favoring and opposing the retention of felony disenfranchisement laws have approached the Representative you work for and are pushing hard for their positions. A vote will be coming up in the House in the next few weeks and your boss wants you to write a recommendation about retaining or revoking the current North Carolina felony disenfranchisement law based on the evidence included in this packet. Specifically, you have been asked to write a report addressing the following issues:
1) a review of the arguments for and against retaining North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law, including the ethical implications for both felons and the general public that may be pertinent;
2) an assessment of diversity issues as they relate to felony disenfranchisement laws;
3) a statement reflecting whether felony disenfranchisement laws should be retained based on the substantive evidence addressing these programs; AND
4) comments on what evidence was used to assist you in that decision and what evidence was not used (if applicable) and why. It may seem more logical to you to incorporate your answers here in your overall response for part 1 – as you may discuss the credibility of arguments for and against retention of the law based on the sources you used. Basically, explain whether you think each document was a credible source, moderately credible, or not credible at all and why. Also, explain whether or not the document is pertinent to your decision – meaning, was it something that contributed to your understanding of the issue and was considered as evidence for your report – why or why not. Indicate which sources you relied on for your decision to retain or not retain the law by citing them within your report as well (ex. One of the issues surrounding retention of the NC felony disenfranchisement law is that most states have similar laws that are being retained
Felony disenfranchisement scenario
The arguments that have been advanced for and against retaining felony disenfranchisement laws in North Carolina are similar to those advanced in other states. They revolve around the trust that can be placed on felonies of previous felonies and the safety of the people who are allowed to vote. The arguments also revolve around race and racial discrimination. In states like Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, for example, a population of about 1 in every five black Americans are prohibited from voting. The argument also revolves around which government has the authority to change the laws, whether it is the federal or the state (Haselswerdt, 2009). Another issue is whether the Voting Rights Act of 1965 covers the provision of felony disenfranchisement. The constitutionality of the disenfranchisement is debated whether it is to be understood in the context of the eighth amendment of the fourteenth amendment (ProCon.org, 2014). Other include the discussion of voting while still in prison, and whether prisoners deserve an automatic restoration of the vote after paying for their mistake and the social contract theory.
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